2/3/2005 | 3 MINUTE READ

Software Helps Shop Automate Quality System

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This company now enjoys benefits such as increased visibility and time savings and easier customer audits.


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For Apex Design Technology (Anaheim, California), a comprehensive quality system is imperative because its customers—which include Boeing, Lockheed, BAE Systems and NASA—all require extensive paper trails. Two years ago, the company realized it needed to replace its time-intensive paper-based system with an automated online system. For Apex, the Exact Software (Minneapolis, Minnesota) JobBoss Quality Toolkit (QTK) is the solution.

“We were looking for automation and better visibility of tracking,” says Todd Gallagher, vice president of the 100-person shop. “We desperately needed to reduce the time it took to process non-conformances (NC). It was evident that we needed trending data and reports, and we wanted to automate the machinery maintenance and calibration system of our tools.”

Since the implementation in early 2002, Apex has accomplished those goals and more. “The QTK has reduced the time it takes to process an NC by at least 50 percent, and we have the benefit of the extensive reporting capabilities,” Mr. Gallagher comments.

Apex specializes in engineering and design, manufacturing, and field services. The company prides itself on a “Can do, will do” motto. To service customers ranging from Disney to NASA, the company combines varied technologies such as hydraulics, pneumatics and electronic systems into its fabricated test systems and ground support equipment. The shop runs two sites—its 5-acre, 85,000-square-foot facility in Anaheim and a second 20,000-square-foot plant in Decatur, Alabama.

While the company is already ISO 9001:2000/AS9100 Rev A compliant, it is working towards its certifications. Mr. Gallagher describes the QTK as a “cornerstone” to staying compliant to many of the ISO and AS standards. That's because it automates the management of its quality laboratory and recall system, in addition to NCs, corrective preventative actions (CPA) and document control.

Apex generally uses the module to create, link, communicate and manage the life cycle of its quality activities and documents. Fully integrated with JobBoss Shop Management software, the QKT consists of five areas: non-conformances; corrective preventative actions; tool and equipment maintenance; document control; and to-do lists, all of which allow the shop to automate time-intensive processes.

The company now enjoys benefits such as increased visibility and time savings and easier customer audits. Additionally, Apex's e-mail system, when combined with the QTK's to-do list, keeps employees aware of the immediate task at hand.

On a daily basis, the shop must maintain an all-inclusive listing of company documents and provide evidence during the approval cycle. Using the module, users can maintain audit trails detailing the disposition of NC and can also track the cost of rework, scrap and maintenance. Reports are viewed weekly in Apex's material review board meeting so that managers are aware of the shop costs as they relate to rework and scrap.

“We track several key business drivers, including information such as NC origin and root cause,” Mr. Gallagher says. “In addition, the summarized report can provide an overview of how we performed for the year, which is particularly useful in our annual quality council meeting for our board of directors.”

Quantifying the cost of quality—by providing visibility into what is happening, how often and where—is another noticeable benefit of using the QTK. “The toolkit identifies what is required to solve the problem; maybe more training is required or a machine is out of calibration,” Mr. Gallagher explains.

Apex also uses the software to track and control its equipment maintenance program. All major repairs are scheduled within the QTK, and the company maintains its calibration recall system and several of its customers' calibration recall systems as well.

With the quality management system automated and online for the past 2 years, Apex regards QTK as an improvement when compared to the previous quality system. “It is the single most useful tool in our shop,” Mr. Gallagher concludes.